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Friday, April 11, 2014

A Hero's Journey Out Of The Devil's Teeth

Photos and article courtesy of Bruckner Chase of Ocean Positive Inc..

On April 8th 2014 Craig Lenning became the second person in history to enter the Pacific Ocean at the Farallone Islands and walk ashore on the California mainland after being in the water for 15 hours and 47 minutes.

The first, Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Evans, entered the water off the Farallones at 10:14 PM on August 27th 1967 and came ashore 13 hours and 44 minutes later in Bolinas.

Lenning entered the water knowing that the swim was possible and that meant he knew exactly how daunting of a task he faced. Knowing something can be done did not leave him immune to the struggles he would face in the Red Triangle and some of the most threatening waves and wildlife on the planet.

The most inspirational individuals in this world are not the ones who fearlessly conquer all challenges. They are instead the ones who confront and embrace the fear while moving forward with a focus, determination and passion that earns them the title of “Hero.” Perhaps the most inspiring facet of Colonel Evans swim was not the swim’s completion but instead his understated answer to a reporter’s question on the Bolinas beach after staggering ashore:

Colonel, did you every doubt you would make it?”

There was a while there, yes.”

The act of swimming long distances has not changed much since 1967, but a lot has happened in the life of the Farallones. None of these changes has made the swim part any easier. The islands, known as The Devil’s Teeth, sit at the northern-most point of the Red Triangle, an area now recognized as the home waters for some of the largest and most voracious great white sharks in the world. At the less environmentally aware time of Evans’s swim someone stood on the rails of the escort boat with a rifle in hand throughout the swim. If marine life is not enough to discourage recreational bathing…the islands were dumping sites for radioactive waste from 1946-1970. In 1981 the islands became the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and the paths of both swimmers took them through a Sanctuary that protects an area of 1,282 square miles and includes the wildlife and habitats of one of the most diverse and bountiful marine environments in the world.

As the Dolphin Club of San Francisco (established 1877) can attest: The more things change the more some things stay the same. The fringe group of long distance swimmers became interested in the islands in 1963 when they began boating out to the Farallones, briefly stepping foot on the beach and then splashing off towards the California coast. By 1964, fifteen swimmers had failed to complete the crossing. In 1966 the famed English Channel swimmer, Ted Erikson, arrived in San Francisco to make his own attempt, on the heels of greats such as Leonore Modell, Greta Andersen and local legend, Ike Papke. Despite a wealth of local knowledge, Ted’s two attempts in 1966 failed after admirable six- and ten-hour efforts. The Hawaiian waterman Ike Papke waited until October 1966 before making his attempt. Papke nearly topped them all, but he was stopped by severe hypothermia, just 1.1 miles from the mainland. As the 1966 attempts came to a close, one man was already well into his preparation to mount his own bid. That man was 40-year old Lieutenant Colonel Stewart Evans stationed at the nearby Presidio military base.

Ironically the first attempt and success by Marine veteran Lenning echoes the first attempt and success of U.S. Army supply officer and life-long swimmer, Colonel Evans, who served in the World War I, Korea and Vietnam conflicts. Evans 20-hour 1953 Catalina Channel crossing, combined with years of military discipline, had taught him the value of meticulous preparation and training, and he brought all that to bear on his Farallones attempt. Evans' intention to undertake the Farallones challenge was first made known to his wife, Pauline Worrell, in 1965. At that time, Worrell, from Hull in Yorkshire, England, had been married to Evans for three years. She recalls that when they first arrived that year in San Francisco, they stopped on the Golden Gate Bridge and gazed out across the waters spread before them. Her husband's gaze was fixed on a jagged collection of islands in the far distance. “Stu pointed out to the Farallones," recalls Worrell. "He casually commented, ‘That is a famous swim that no one has done, and I want to do it.’”

As part of his year-long training regimen, Evans would log lunchtime swims in front of the Dolphin Club, while pouring over nautical maps and tide charts in the evenings.

In preparation for his own Farallones attempt Lenning logged training time in San Francisco’s Aquatic Park and even took part in Suzie Dods’ 24-hour February 2014 relay swim completing loops of Aquatic Park and re-warming in the same Dolphin Club sauna Evans called home in the 1960’s. There are perhaps few better training grounds and comrades than those present in San Francisco Bay. The swimmers from both generations made the most of the water and the wisdom found in the Dolphin Club and South End Rowing Club.

The wisdom then and now dictates that you prepare for epic challenges determined to leave nothing to chance. By the time Evans stepped into the 13ºC waters of the Farallones at 10:17 pm on August 27th, he had a full crew from the Dolphin Club aboard their lead boat, the Water Queen, along with two rowboats, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Rita Banks and the Crissy Flier, loaded with pilots, pacers, feeders, and a physician. Evans was a traditionalist and was clad in swim trunks, a cloth swim cap, and heavy glass-and-rubber goggles. He was also coated in ten pounds of what can only be called 'Farallones grease' – marine-bearing grease mixed with graphite, as a shark repellent, applied over a base layer of wintergreen oil. When Evans hit the water he was greeted not by the anticipated 20-foot great whites but rather a large number of giant, 25-foot jellyfish according to the swim logs.

According to the Dolphin Club logs and first-hand accounts by observers the scene in 1967 was described as incredibly eerie, as huge jellyfish drifted just below the swimmer, but with the thick grease coating still fully intact, stings were not an issue. Evans swam alone until 3 am when the first escort swimmer joined him and those who would join him on and off throughout the swim grabbed wetsuits and fins just to keep up. Feedings were as critical in 1967 as they are today, albeit perhaps less sophisticated. Throughout the entire swim, the Dolphin Club’s Don Warto never left his post on the pilot boat, feeding Evans his requested 7-Up and lemon Jell-O for almost 14 hours. Throughout the night and the early morning Evans maintained a front crawl at 55 strokes per minute (ironically a stroke count similar to that reported for Lenning), and only switched to sidestroke for feedings. Knowing that any extra time in that water could lead to failure, Evans never stopped moving forward. According to the swim records, the first sign of any distress shown by Evans was severe shoulder pain at 6 am, but the pain responded to aspirin and when another escort swimmer joined him at 8.30 am the crew became increasingly confident that the mainland was just a matter of time.

The force of the tides flowing out of San Francisco Bay have not changed in 47 years. They forced both Lenning and Evans to adjust in the water in search of attainable dry land. In 1967 the intended landing site was Stinson Beach, but a change in tides began driving the flotilla and swimmer north, while also slowing forward progress to roughly half a knot. Due to the rocky cliffs throughout that section of coast, an advance boat had to scout out a gap between the treacherous rocks, and as the currents again changed closer to shore the crew found a small swimable gap at Bolinas Point. Escorted by two swimmers, positioned to watch for breaking waves and rocks, the Colonel touched bottom at 13 hours 44 minutes and 52 seconds after leaving the Farallones. He crawled across the jagged rocks in the surf break before, in the words of the observer, Dr Fred Howard, “Stu felt so elated that he jogged up on the beach like a track man.”

Just as Bannister did for others in breaking the four-minute mile, Evans showed us all what is possible. On September 16th 1967, just three weeks after landing in Bolinas, Evans, the ultimate sportsman, helped escort Ted Erikson on his own Farallones journey that ended in a boat under the Golden Gate Bridge. Colonel Evans finished one of the most difficult swims in the world, yet the soft-spoken athlete never stopped coaching and encouraging others. Before his death from cancer in 1976, Evans spent countless hours in the water and on the pool deck, not only with his own kids but also others from the communities around Philadelphia, where he eventually settled with his wife, Pauline.

Evans’s legacy continues to lead hundreds into the ocean, for everything from a first dip to a race around an island under the watchful and expert eyes of his children.

While so many swimmers may celebrate conquering a section of water, Evans and his swims continue to encourage a celebration of being part of the water. The waters of the Farallones choose their heroes carefully, and once accepted into the fold the character of those who become part of those waters will continue to inspire across oceans and years well beyond one day’s efforts spent struggling from The Devil’s Teeth.

Copyright © 2014 by Bruckner Chase

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The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE CONFERENCE

The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."

The 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Programme

Wednesday, September 17th
Leave Glasgow to commence 2-day tour of Scotland [closest international airport is Glasgow]

Thursday, September 18th
Stay Mainland, North of Scotland

Friday, September 19th
14:00 - Swim Loch Lomond
17:00 - Head to Isle of Bute
19:30 - Scottish Banquet
21:30 - Dinner Dance

Saturday, September 20th
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
12:20 - Lunch and WOWSA Awards
13:40 – Speeches
15:40 - Round Table
19:00 - International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Dinner & Induction Ceremony

Sunday, September 21st
09:00 - Registration & Coffee
10:00 - Speeches
14:30 - Swim in St Ninian's Bay on the Isle of Bute

The luminaries of the open water swimming world who will be honored in Scotland will include:

* Sandra Bucha (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Jon Erikson (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Claudio Plit (Argentina), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Judith van Berkel-de Njis (Netherlands), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* David Yudovin (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Mercedes Gleitze (Great Britain), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* George Young (Canada), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Swimmer
* Dale Petranech (U.S.A.), International Swimming Hall of Fame Honor Open Water Contributor
* Melissa Cunningham (Australia), 2013 Irving Davids-Captain Roger Wheeler Memorial Award winner
* Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* James Anderson (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Dr. Jane Katz (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Administrator
* Indonesian Swimming Federation, , International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Organisation
* Elizabeth Fry (U.S.A.), International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Honour Swimmer
* Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year
* Olga Kozydub (Russia), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year
* Bering Strait Swim (international team), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year
* International Ice Swimming Association (Ram Barkai, founder, South Africa), the 2013 World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year

For additional articles on the 2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference, visit:

* Olga Kozydub To Be Honored In Scotland
* Pádraig Mallon To Be Honored In Mount Stuart Castle
* Mount Stuart House, Splendid Setting For Swimming
* Colleen Blair To Kick-off Global Open Water Swimming Conference
* The Man Who Swims Better Than He Walks
* Joining In The Sea Goddess At The Hall Of Fame
* Mercedes Gleitze To Be Honored In Scotland
* The Incredible Career Of Merceded Gleitze
* Jon Erikson To Be Honoured In Florida
* The Incredible Career Of Mercedes Gleitze
* St Ninian's Bay To Host International Swim Conference

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

Swim Across the English Channel...

OWSM-CM

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Chloë McCardel is a 6-time English Channel Swimmer who inspires and instructs. Access featured content by Chloë in this month's issue of the Open Water Swimming Magazine. Published monthly by WOWSA, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a digital, interactive publication made available exclusively to WOWSA members. See what you've been missing! Become a WOWSA member today!

Open Water Swimming Magazine


Open Water Swimming Magazine

The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

WOWSA Member Benefits include 12 issues of the Open Water Swimming Magazine, the annual 276-page Open Water Swimming Almanac, a free listing in Sponsor My Swim, outstanding product discounts from FINIS, an entry in Openwaterpedia and more...
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The Other Shore


The Other Shore follows world record holder and legendary swimmer Diana Nyad as she comes out of a thirty-year retirement to re-attempt an elusive dream: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida without the use of a shark cage. Her past and present collide in her obsession with a feat that nobody has ever accomplished. At the edge of The Devil’s Triangle, tropical storms, sharks, venomous jellyfish, and one of the strongest ocean currents in the world, all prove to be life-threatening realities. Timothy Wheeler’s documentary brings Diana Nyad’s extraordinary adventure to life as Diana sets out to prove that will and determination are all you need to make the unimaginable possible.
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2014 Open Water Swimming Almanac



An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

An almanac is essentially a body of knowledge which is so complete that it enables people in different fields to make predictions about the future of their respective industries.

This, for example, was the purpose of the traditional farmers almanacs. It enabled farmers to determine as accurately as possible which crops to plant for the greatest harvests in a given year.

But the farmers almanac was just one example among many.
There are, of course, many different kinds of almanacs.

In fact, there is even one for open water swimming...

Preview the Open Water Swimming Almanac:
https://www.worldopenwaterswimmingassociation.com/preview-open-water-swimming-almanac


The trends are very clear.
The tide is rising for open water swimming.

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